How to make an operating system better

With Microsoft taking Windows in a direction that’s distinctly unappealing, it’s a pleasure to write about an operating system that’s actually being improved and enhanced in useful ways: Apple ProDOS.

You read that right: ProDOS. It’s a decades old system that runs on hardware nobody uses any more (Apple IIs), but with the dedicated efforts of a single developer, a new, greatly improved version of ProDOS was recently released as version 2.4.

Why am I so excited about this? Because operating systems are important. They form the core of all the computer systems we use daily. I want to use an O/S that’s reliable, fast, and mostly invisible. A good O/S provides this critical underpinning without compromising our privacy or trying to sell us anything.

As reported by Jason Scott on his ASCII blog, ProDOS 2.4 was a labour of love for its developer. He says:

“The current mainstream OS environment is, frankly, horrifying, and to see a pure note, a trumpet of clear-minded attention to efficiency, functionality and improvement, stands in testament to the fact that it is still possible to achieve this, albeit a smaller, slower-moving target. Either way, it’s an inspiration.”

I agree completely. There’s no reason for a new version of an operating system to ever get worse. This really applies to all software, but it’s especially important for operating systems. Microsoft would do well to look at this project and learn from it.

If you happen to have an old Apple II lying around (as I do), you can run ProDOS 2.4 on it. Otherwise, you’ll need to use an Apple II emulator like AppleWin.

About jrivett

Jeff Rivett has worked with and written about computers since the early 1980s. His first computer was an Apple II+, built by his father and heavily customized. Jeff's writing appeared in Computist Magazine in the 1980s, and he created and sold a game utility (Ultimaker 2, reviewed in the December 1983 Washington Apple Pi Journal) to international markets during the same period. Proceeds from writing, software sales, and contract programming gigs paid his way through university, earning him a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) degree at UWO. Jeff went on to work as a programmer, sysadmin, and manager in various industries. There's more on the About page, and on the Jeff Rivett Consulting site.

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